tv NBC Bay Area News Special NBC December 9, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PST
>> we take you up in the air with student pilots training in the u.s. why sot critics say they're being rushed in the cockpit. and hoe legal battles over special ed are affecting all students. and we investigate a bay area fire station that's earned the ugly reputation as the cancer station. here's chief investigative
reporter tony kovaleski. >> and thank you for joining us. for the next 30 minutes, we investigate. exposing stories, uncovering issues, and holding government accountable. we begin on the tarmac with an investigation into the growing demands of pilots. >> asiana crash has refocused attention on how foreign pilots learn to fly. how many are getting trained right here in the states but have very different standards for getting in the cockpit than american pilots. >> it took 23-year-old anthony yon three yeefrs book study just to get here. he's prepping his cessna 172 aircraft as part of the 10 to 12-month process to fulfill his dream. >> i really wanted to be someone
like that, because it's special. >> a dream he's had since he was 10. back home in china. >> for a 10-year-old kid like i was. >> a dream of becoming a commercial pilot. this man from to nies yeah shares his dream. according to the faa, nearly 24,000 foreign pilots have gotten either commercial or air transport license over the last four years. here in america. yon and thousands of others who come here to train hope to now join them. arizona, california and florida have the most flight schools in the country -- 167 total. we visited and researched half a dozen of these schools. in places like redding, around
the bay area, bakerfield and phoenix. all of the schools are either run by foreign airlines were train students already employed by those foreign airlines. >> the goal for all is to become commercial pilots. >> this is the head instructor in reading. >> i'm always telling the students, you're going to carry thousands of people in your career. thousands of people that you don't know are going to trust you to get them to their destination safely. >> he says all 140 stound stooupts at iasco are from china. each are hired by a chinese airline then paid in full. each get a commercial pilot's license in about a year. teaching foreign students has unique challenges. >> somebody might know how to teach. how to teach someone whose english is not their native language is another thing entirely. >> it's why these students take english classes at the flight school. he also says a lack of access to
small airplanes at home is the biggest obstacle to success for foreign-born pilots. >> my favorite part, i get to fly the plane. >> here they get the basics. students get 190 hours in a plane by the time they leave. >> we're flying every single day. >> after training here, these pilots will go home, take another year or so to get rated on big airplanes, gaining another 50 or 60 hours flying time, and then expect to end up in the right seat of cockpits of large commercial jets as a first officer. with only about 250 hours of total flying time. >> what kind of airplanes do you want to fly? here in the u.s., similarly trained pilots don't set foot in the cockpit of big commercial jets until they have at least 1,500 hours flying time.
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>> our investigation comes after the asiana crash at sfo last summer. federal investigators are now looking at pilot training and decisions made by the flight crew. tonight, some experts tell investigative reporter steven stock they have major safety concerns about training levels of foreign pilots. less than a year ago, anthony yon first set foot in an airplane. now he's flying one at iasco flight school in redding. in hopes that in another year's time he'll be flying back home in china.
a. >> a commercial pilot is a special job. >> last year alone, the faa issued nearly 5,000 individual commercial and air transport licenses to foreign pilots. many of them to go on to fly large commercial jets within a year of leaving the u.s.-based flight schools. >> english was a big problem for them. >> this veteran flight instructor taught aspiring pilots from china for almost four years. he says he quit his job in frustration over safety lapses. he wanted us to hide his identity because he does not want to jeopardize a future career in aviation, but he does want to expose what he considers to be critical safety issues. >> the decision making ability was lacking. they always wanted somebody to tell them what to do. >> more troubling this instructor said he was pressured by the flight school and the foreign-based airlines to pass pilots who were not ready to fly commercial jets.
>> i didn't feel that i should pass him. >> did that create a safety problem in your mind? >> absolutely. >> a manager at the school denied pilots were rushed to graduate and were given commercial licenses before they were ready. the instructor said the pilots he trained would go back home and within a year be flying as a co-pilot of big jets, 737s, 777s and 747s. >> i have students tell me all the time. >> with 380 people behind them? >> absolutely. >> don't believe him? >> we need to get them more train popping. >> then listen to this man. >> they're unprepared for the task that they're being paid. >> david baker was a flight instructor at cafe pacific
before retiring to fly corporate jets all around the world. >> there seems to be, i think, an almost indecent hurry to get young pilots into the cockpit. >> all the pilots tell us they train to full faa standards and that they don't cut corners, but they admitted they have no control what happens after these pilots go back home. >> does it worry you not enough pilots have those skills anymore? >> yes, it does. yes, it does worry me. and it should worry many responsible pilot that co-pilots are getting into cockpits these days and quite simply they're unprepared. >> in a statement, cafe pacific says it has some of the most rigorous pilot training standards in the world. asiana pilots announced after the crash it was changing the way it trained future pilots. and federal investigators have scheduled public hearings on the crash this week, which will focus on the flight crew's actions and training.
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now an investigation and spending of more tax dollars. parents taking to the courtroom to get more help for kids in the classrooms. some of the bay area's most vulnerable students are not getting the education they deserve. it's an issue affecting all students in public schools. >> the school district fought tremendously. it's an overwhelming and taxing process. >> reporter: for parents with students of disabilities, getting the public education their children are promised can be contentious.
>> can you put it on the first pit? >> that's almost 700,000 kids each year. three were robin hansen's, including her son's jared, diagnosed with autism in fifth grade. >> i used to write letters about my children, you know, hey, this is going on. can you help me? and no one would answer me. >> reporter: despite the diagnosis, they refused to provide him with a class that works with autistic kids. instead, they placed him with children diagnosed with emotion flail disturbed. the district took hansen to court in a dpis put she eventually won. >> so many school districts ignore the law or don't take it seriously. >> schools versus students, a scene played out in courtrooms nationwide. according to the state, since 2010 more than 10,000 families
have gone to court to fight for that education. >> they neert fighting the system. they're not fighting me. they're not fighting to save money nape ear fighting a 6-year-old. >> this mother said her school refused to provide services for her son despite his adhd diagnosis. >> one tells me this is the protocol. to get turned down over and over until finally that allow you in. >> she said the district later provided counseling and one-on-one time. but she said her son never received those services. >> it's not okay to play game, especially when you know this child needs services. >> reporter: delay and deny, a tactic that's become common in some districts. the federal department of special education even issued this memo, warping schools to stop.
>> it is a very common plo says. >> reporter: jane's son richard was diagnosed with depression and a bipolar condition. >> you're having to prove your child needs what the law says your child needs. >> she spent years battling, but she says it wasn't until she filed a lawsuit and the district settled that richard finally received help. >> my child will never be able to get that time back again. >> all students suffer when school districts pay legal fees. we found since 2010 oakland unified spent at least $850,000 on outside legal fees. san jose spent about $551,000, and san francisco spent $460,000. compare that to the $22,000 a year it costs on average to school a special needs student. the amount spent on legal fees in that time period could have provided services to 83 students.
>> would schools be better providing services to special ed children than fighting them in court? >> i think most of the situations that end up in court are cases that could have been resolved earlier and much cheaper. for patients, there's just an absolute, you know, feel of course betrayal. the system is not working the way it's supposed to work. >> while this representative was not on staff during the case, he says the district is working to improve service. including hiring bonuses to recruit qualified special ed teachers. >> districts sometimes actively delay or deny these services to students. >> as an administrator, having seen that, and why did that happen? >> i have seen that. i don't believe that that is ethical.
it's not professional. >> funding is a challenge for all districts. the federal government is supposed to pay for 40% of special ed services. but on average, only shifted 17%. but tight budgets are no excuse to delay or deny services. >> that doesn't mean that everybody gets the same. equity means that everybody gets what they deserve to help them the most successful. . >> you want your child to be independent when they grow up and education is the answer to that.
there is a statewide lawsuit to families heading to trial now alleging the state department of education lets the schools shirk their duties in providing special ed services. we will follow those developments. coming up after the break. >> we investigate why a fire station has a reputation as the cancer station. i love watching tv outside.
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>> it's one of the bay area's busiest fire stations. the fire station has another reputation. to many, it a es known as the cancer station. there's no scientific proof, no direct connection, but for more than a decade it's a name well known to san jose zj firefighters. now we investigate, holding the city accountable for a reputation that won't go away.
>> there is no cure for my cancer. >> mike cunningham has multiple myoloma. >> what's the reputation of fire station 5. >> a dump and a place to go get cancer at. >> there's a lot of colder guys that know if you work at that station long enough, there's a good pg chance you're going to come up with cancer. >> rick has gallbladder cancer. >> my life changed. it will never be the same. >> two veteran firefighters. both retired, both now fight narg lives. both spent time working at station 5 and they recognize the fact that firefighters are at a greater risk for cancer. but they want the is i to explore why station 5 has earned the unusual reputation as the cancer station. >> when you work at 5, you can't
wait to get out and work at some other station. everyone knows a friend that died of cancer that at some point bourqued at station 5. >> i looked at him and i said your papy is coming home to die. >> she broke that news to her 8-year-old son jonah. her husband died in august of last year. two months after doctored diagnosed him with an extremely aggressive cancer. >> just a quick moment in time, he was gone. and i became a single mom. >> that was august 10, 2012. jose martinez died just two weeks after melissa gave birth to their twin girls. sophia and olivier.
>> knowing what you now know about station five, do you wonder? >> it lingers in the back of my mind. i wonder. >> martinez, cunningham and wardol are all part of a growing list of firefighters diagnosed with cancer and having fire station 5 on their resumes. the nbc bay area investigative unit has sbher viewed dozen of former and current san jose firefighters trying to understand the foundation of station 5's reputation. we found at least 16 station 5 firefighters diagnosed with cancer. >> from a technical point of view would you say i developed cancer as a result of being at this fire station? probably not. >> dr. mike wilson directs as the lead investigator as a professional and environmental program.
>> would you say there may have been exposures that happened in this fire station that contributed to the development of cancer? that's plausible. >> anticipate deemologists say connecting cancer to the fire station is extremely difficult. they also point out that cancer clusters in general are rare. >> but several firefighters say the concerns are not limited to kans per .they also point out a series of environmental exposures during more than a direct dek cade. >> the reputation was that it was a dirty place to work, a place to stay away from if you could, and that if you worked there, you would be exposed to things you wouldn't be at other stations. >> fire station 5 sits in a highly industrial part of the city. for years, firefighters have spent memos and raised concerns about problems with aig air quality. and the bay area air quality management district has determined station 5 is located in a, quote, toxic air contaminant zone.
but several air quality tests have not identified high levels of toxins. they focus on more high-risk chemical firefighter than any other station in the city. >> do you know firefighters who say i won't work at station 5? >> yes. just because of the hazard around that station. and the station itself. >> are those concerns credible 1234 should they be looked into 1234. >> i think they are certainly worthy of attention. >> the city recently addressed concerns over environmental exposures in and around station 5 by spending more than $1 million redeveloping the facili facility. but firefighters' concerns go deeper. >> it would be nice if the city would step up and admit that there was a problem there. >> is it acceptable for them not to investigate what caused your kanser? >> no. especially when it can be prevented for guys in the
future. >> when a group of firefighters are raising concerns, it's incumbent on the city to respond and investigate their concerns. >> former firefighters dealing with cancer had the courage to sit in front of a camera and say something needs to be done here? agree? >> i agree. >> the acting fire chief also spent time working at station 5. after learning of concerns, the chief has asked the city to take a closer look. >> should your fire department track cancers? >> absolutely. without a doubt. if there's anything question do to track, to stop that, to never put a name on a wall. or at least catch it early enough, absolutely. >> following our investigation, san jose planned to track cancer and firefighters.
it came on the heels of a national study following cancer and firefighters in philadelphia, chicago and san francisco. follow our tip line at 888-996-tips. or send an e-mail to the unit at nbcbayarea.com. finally, we thank you for watching. you're invited to join us regularly right here on nbc bay area. why? because we investigate. good night.
mpls welcome to "on the money." i'm becky quick. is good news finally good news? the road to ruin. the largest city in u.s. history declares bankruptcy. how to protect against credit card fraud and identity theft this holiday season. tips before you shop till to drop. "on the money" starts right now. >> this is america's number one financial news program. "on the money." now becky quick. here is a look at what's making news as we head into a new week. some surprising strength in america's economy. the unemployment rate fell to a